August 2022 Book Club: The House in the Cerulean Sea

Cover art for The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune.

This post should probably start by saying this book was a much better read than the non-fiction I attempted last month. For starters, the writing draws you in from the beginning because as much as you don’t want to relate to Linus, it’s easy to. We’ve all had jobs that we do because they’re a paycheck and we’re good at them. They’re safe and easy, why put yourself out of your comfort zone if you don’t need to? Then there’s his desire to fit into society: his dieting, rule-following, and people-pleasing ways. Why stand up to your neighbor if it’s not so bad? You do have to live next to them after all and who’s to say it will improve things? I cheered when Linus stood up and quit his job because I’ve been there. I’ve felt the relief of coming to the decision that I deserve better and the excitement that comes from taking a risk. After all, let’s be clear here, DICOMY would be a toxic department to work for.

Then there’s the children, each special in their own way and each looking to be loved. I think that’s the big thing that Klune is trying to stress as we get to know them, even though they’re different and they don’t quite fit in with the world around them, they’re still just children who are in need of a loving home. It’s a friendly reminder that all children, I’m thinking of those outside the story now, are looking for the same things. They want to feel safe and loved, and when they do they have the ability to really thrive. We see it in each of them – Lucy wanting to feel safe from his nightmares and interact with the world through music, Chauncey dreaming of helping people, then there are dreams of creating beautiful gardens and writing poetry, all different and about being accepted for who they are and what excites them.

Fear is, unfortunately, one of the powerful emotions in this book that is often translated into hate. Linus fears being seen so he hates how he looks and interacts with the world. The villagers fear the children on the island, so they hate them. Arthur fears the children being mistreated, so he hates the idea of them ever leaving the island. Fear and hate hold everyone back, it wasn’t until everyone allowed their bubble to be popped that they were able to move forward and face their fears.

All in all, I love this book because it’s about finding the place you belong and the people you belong with. It’s about popping your comfort bubble so that you can let in those who have the potential to help you grow into the best version of yourself, not the version the world believes you capable of. It’s about letting go of your past hurts so that you can move forward a stronger person that can stand up for themselves. The House in the Cerulean Sea is a beautiful story, I was sad when it reached its conclusion.

Cover art for All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace.

For September, let’s continue our enjoyment of islands and magic with All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace. If I’m being honest, the cover drew me in and the description lead me to decide to read it. So while I’m not judging a book by its cover, it did lead me to pick it up ;]

Set in a kingdom where danger lurks beneath the sea, mermaids seek vengeance with song, and magic is a choice.

She will reign.

As princess of the island kingdom Visidia, Amora Montara has spent her entire life training to be High Animancer — the master of souls. The rest of the realm can choose their magic, but for Amora, it’s never been a choice. To secure her place as heir to the throne, she must prove her mastery of the monarchy’s dangerous soul magic.

When her demonstration goes awry, Amora is forced to flee. She strikes a deal with Bastian, a mysterious pirate: he’ll help her prove she’s fit to rule, if she’ll help him reclaim his stolen magic.

But sailing the kingdom holds more wonder — and more peril — than Amora anticipated. A destructive new magic is on the rise, and if Amora is to conquer it, she’ll need to face legendary monsters, cross paths with vengeful mermaids, and deal with a stow-away she never expected… or risk the fate of Visidia and lose the crown forever.

I am the right choice. The only choice. And I will protect my kingdom.

July 2022 Book Club: The Design of Everyday Things

Cover art for the Design of Everyday Things by Donald A Norman.

I really wanted to like this one but had the hardest time getting into it. Perhaps I need to give it a second try at a later date, but I honestly struggled to make it past the second chapter. Though the writing was dry, it reminded me of a time I enthusiastically purchased a teapot-cup combo from a thrift shop. In theory, it was genius. The teapot stacks inside the mug for easy storage and was designed so that you could enjoy two cups of tea using the included mug – perfect for a morning where you’re not sharing a pot with someone. In practice, however, the handle on both items was too small to use. This meant that you inevitably burned your fingers pouring the tea and again trying to drink it (the material of the pot was also too small. Despite paying $2 USD for the items, I couldn’t help but attempt to use them again and again over the course of two years before finally donating them.

I think this concept of design is interesting and can be applied to everyday life. There are things that seem like a good idea, but when you try them out it turns out they’re not a good fit. Maybe because it adds too much driving time to your commute so you never make the trip. Maybe the goal didn’t actually fit into your lifestyle. Perhaps the real point is that you give the idea the freedom to fail and then learn from your mistakes to improve the design. In thinking of my teapot/mug combo, the design would have worked better if the set was made of a thicker clay or if both items had a more practical handle. I will acknowledge here that sometimes items are donated to a thrift store for a reason and I should consider that when purchasing.

Back to fiction for August, which I tend to enjoy more by default. One of my friends lent me her copy of The House in the Cerulean Sea and it seems like the perfect book to slip into in the heat of summer:

Cover art for the House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune.

A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.

An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.